In recent years, the integrity of food production and
distribution has become an issue of wide social concern. The media
frequently report on cases of food contamination as well as on the
risks of hormones and cloning. Journalists, documentary filmmakers,
and activists have had their say, but until now a survey of the
latest research on the history of the modern food-provisioning
system-the network that connects farms and fields to supermarkets
and the dining table-has been unavailable. In Food Chains,
Warren Belasco and Roger Horowitz present a collection of
fascinating case studies that reveal the historical underpinnings
and institutional arrangements that compose this system.
The dozen essays in Food Chains range widely in subject,
from the pig, poultry, and seafood industries to the origins of the
shopping cart. The book examines what it took to put ice in
nineteenth-century refrigerators, why Soviet citizens could buy ice
cream whenever they wanted, what made Mexican food popular in
France, and why Americans turned to commercial pet food in place of
table scraps for their dogs and cats. Food Chains goes
behind the grocery shelves, explaining why Americans in the early
twentieth century preferred to buy bread rather than make it and
how Southerners learned to like self-serve shopping. Taken
together, these essays demonstrate the value of a historical
perspective on the modern food-provisioning system.
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